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Category Archives: Mercy

free fall

A convergence of excerpts.

falling

love this. courtesy of Slavica Dolasevic

Read (reread, actually) this excerpt from Peterson’s Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places about Rick Bass, “a very good writer…another Montana neighbor of mine.”

He lives in the Yaak, a wilderness area seventy miles north of my home. Besides being an excellent writer, he is a fervent environmentalist. I don’t know him personally but have seen him in action, and like very much what I see. Environmentalists care deeply about this creation; but a lot of them are also pretty mean – angry, sometimes violent. Rick Bass is small of stature, elf-like, energetic and laughing, it seems, most of the time. He holds parties for the loggers and miners, working for common ground, developing a language of courtesy and understanding.

The Rick Bass tribe needs to increase.

Why is it that often those most passionate about protecting the earth and the civil rights of other human beings can be so unmercifully snarky in their handling of their fellow human beings who aren’t on the same page yet? And by what love and logic does such rough treatment cause us to think we will accomplish anything more than further feed mutual antagonisms while merely accumulating at our feet our own dittoheading crowd? How does this ultimately advance the ball on the field that really matters?

falling upwardThen this quote from Rohr. More spacious, second half of life musings that serves like commentary on the elf-like Mr. Bass:

Your concern is not so much to have what you love anymore, but to love what you have—right now. This is a monumental change from the first half of life, so much so that it is almost the litmus test of whether you are in the second half of life at all. Inner brightness, still holding life’s sadness and joy, is its own reward, its own satisfaction, and your best and truest gift to the world. 

Such elders are the “grand” parents of the world. Children and other adults feel so safe and loved around them, and they themselves feel so needed and helpful to children, teens, and midlife adults. And they are! They are in their natural flow.

Strangely, all of life’s problems, dilemmas, and difficulties are now resolved not by negativity, attack, criticism, force, or logical resolution, but always by falling into a larger “brightness”—by falling into the good, the true, and the beautiful—by falling into God. All you have to do is meet one such shining person and you know that he or she is surely the goal of humanity and the delight of God.

Adam’s fall so needs to be met by this fall “into the good, the true and the beautiful.”

God how we need to fall.

And then, topping off this convergence of excerpts, this (Peterson channeling Paul in Philippians, phear not):

Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!

Yes, we need to fall.

Oh how we need to fall into such brightness, such expectation, such hope, such beauty.

And if this is what “falling into God” truly meant for us, who would want to hold by clawing fingernail to such dark and bitter perches?

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2014 in Books, haverings, Mercy, musings, Unity

 

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religious ruckus

This week’s installment of the MAV…John 7:53-8:11…a religious ruckus involving a disreputable woman in a disputed passage...

Meanwhile, Jesus made his way to the Mount of Olives outside the city.

But not for long.

Early the next morning he was right back at it in the temple. All the crowd flocked to him looking for more, and he obliged them. Having taken his seat, he began teaching them – until a major religious ruckus broke out, Scripture pundits and strict sect types showing up, a woman in tow, a woman caught red-handed in the act of adultery.

They sought no private audience with Jesus, they pushed her right into the center where Jesus was teaching, challenging him,

“Rabbi, this woman was caught red-handed in the very act of adultery! We know what Moses in the law says must be done to such a woman – death by stoning. But what do you say?”

And in case you hadn’t figured it out, this whole thing was a set up; they were just looking for ammunition to nail writingindirtJesus to the wall.

But Jesus didn’t bite or budge.

He just stooped down and started doodling in the dirt with his finger.

The religious lynch mob didn’t budge either.
They stood there and kept prodding him with their own pointed fingers of accusation.

Jesus finally looked up at them and said,

“The only one with a rock in his hand is the one with no sin in his heart.”

And then he was back to finger doodling in the dirt.

Stunned by what they heard, they began to clear out, one by one, from the oldest to the youngest of them, until she was left
all
alone –
just the woman,
right there in the center.

Looking up again, Jesus spoke to her.

“Woman, where did they all go?
What, no judge and jury to condemn you?”

She said, sheepishly, “Lord, none at all.”

“Well then, you won’t hear any condemnation from me either.
On your way – only, from now on,
how about avoiding the ruts of sin
and aiming higher.”

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2014 in Gospel of John, MAV, Mercy, Religion

 

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doodling in the dirt

Wrote this as a future post for my other blog on the disputed text of John 7:53-8:11…sometimes I like the way these turn out…

So what do you do when your day is interrupted by a religious ruckus?

How do you handle that snarky, cutting religious or irreligious comment, that jarring, jagged edged post that instead of being incisive is divisive and derisive?

Most of us draw mental swords, at the very least, those swords often spilling out verbally onto printed or electronic page. Post and counter post in a accumulating comment thread that manufactures a verbal and emotional bloodbath resembling Helkath-hazzurim more than the “iron sharpening iron” that it’s cracked up to be.

Helkath-hazzurim.

let's not go there

let’s not go there

“Field of Sword-Edges.”

You can find its story on the bloody pages of 2 Samuel 2.

Twelve of David’s young men, twelve of the son of Saul, facing off at a pond. “Let the young men arise and compete for us.” And arise they did. Young men of all ages and genders are always ready for a brawl – especially a religious brawl. Twenty-four rise, twenty-four fall by the now bloody pool.

Nobody survives this game, there are no winners.

So how does Jesus rise to the challenge of this religious ruckus, how does he respond to these exposed religious blades?

Watch.
Learn.
He doesn’t.

He doesn’t rise up and face off with them, flexing theological muscles, nostrils flaring, fists tightening.

He stoops.
And he doodles in the dirt.

yeah, not so much this

yeah, not so much this

It’s the one time Scripture says that Jesus wrote. But it was no Facebook or blog post. Only an earthy post in the dirt. And we have no idea what he wrote.

How do you handle a religious ruckus?
How do you respond to that religious or irreligious gauntlet that slaps you in the face?

Turn the other cheek.
Or doodle in the dirt.
Same thing.

Paul captures it well – his counsel could be the subtitle for this scene, with Eugene Peterson inputting the text: “Run away from infantile indulgence. Run after mature righteousness—faith, love, peace—joining those who are in honest and serious prayer before God. Refuse to get involved in inane discussions; they always end up in fights. God’s servant must not be argumentative, but a gentle listener and a teacher who keeps cool, working firmly but patiently with those who refuse to obey. You never know how or when God might sober them up with a change of heart and a turning to the truth, enabling them to escape the Devil’s trap, where they are caught and held captive, forced to run his errands.” (you’ll find this in 2 Timothy 2:22-26).

May we all become accomplished doodlers.

writingindirt

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2014 in haverings, Mercy

 

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God hates you or Meet the Jansens

I came across this clip from a brother’s sermon recently. It stuck between my teeth like a popcorn husk that defies flossing, so be warned if you watch: you could be picking at your teeth for some time.

The bottom line here if you don’t wish to venture in and risk possible flossing challenges of your own: God hates you. Well, some of you. Personally, objectively. He hates you. His sick of you. You weary him.

While watching this I immediately began a rewrite in my mind of some classic hymns, such as…

Come let us all unite to sing
God is hate!
Let heav’n and earth their praises ring,
God is hate!

I started thinking of what my brother’s devotional calendar would look like…

driscoll calendar

this could be a big seller. just saying.

Now, there is truth in what is said – but then there’s truth in at least some of what most of us say. Yes, we can cite plenty of Scriptures that bear witness to the hate/wrath/anger of God, from God putting to death erring Er in Genesis to Jesus (!) threatening to strike “the children” of “Jezebel” dead in Revelation.

Point taken.

We can also cite Scriptures that emphasize the love of God and we commence bombardments and counter-bombardments of love and hate, anger and grace.

I actually don’t think most of us are in denial of this. From over thirty years in this “business” of church life my observation is that people, whether religious or irreligious, live in anxiety and fear of their own imperfections and of not measuring up to God or to whomever. We might wear facades of assurance and bravado, but our default mode is one of fear and insecurity.

god-hates-you

replacing “God” with “I” would be more honest

So, thanks, my brother, for reinforcing our already well-established spiritual neurosis.

I could see people wilting under the condemnation of this “diagnosis.” I thought of the story I just read of the latest victim of cyber-bullying – the twelve-year-old girl who had been hounded with messages like, “You are a loser,” “You’re so fat,” “Nobody likes you,” “Why don’t you kill yourself.”

And so she did.

I thought of how close saying “God hates you” is to “I hate you” and how much more dangerous it is – for if God hates you, am not I (are not we?) fully justified or even commanded to do the same? Can I even do otherwise? And just what would such hate look like when translated into action?

frank

I like my daughter’s sign better

And then I met the Jansens. (Thank you Richard Rohr for this wee trip down memory lane):

Jansenism was named after a Dutch theologian and bishop, Cornelius Jansen (d. 1638), who emphasized moral austerity and a fear of God’s justice more than any trust in God’s mercy. God was wrathful, vindictive, and punitive, and all the appropriate Scriptures were found to make these very points. It is hard to find a Western Christian—Catholic or Protestant—who has not been formed by this Christian form of Pharisaism, which is really pagan Stoicism. It strongly influenced most seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Catholicism in France, Belgium, Holland, Italy, and Germany, and still lingers on in much pre– Vatican II Catholicism all over the world. Although it was officially condemned as a heresy by Rome in 1715, it is still quite common, especially, it seems to me, among people who have had punitive and angry parenting patterns. This is the way they comfortably shape their universe and their God. They actually prefer such a God—things are very clear, and you know where you stand with such a deity—even though this perspective leaves almost all people condemned and is a very pessimistic and fearful worldview.

The heresy of Jansenism was new to me. But actually only in name. I’ve met the Jansens. Shoot, I’ve been a Jansenite more than I would care to remember. Rohr is right. There are far too many Jansenites running around masquerading as Calvinists, Reformed, Evangelical, Catholic, Christian, whatever. If we must have handles, Jansenite sounds fitting. Though it does sound like a line of luggage. Actually, that’s a plus.

Much religious baggage here…

Grumpy Pharisee bumper sticker

the bumpersticker I would gift to every Jansenite, starting with myself

 

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finger-pointers beware…not that I’m pointing any fingers

And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the Lord unto Bethel: and Jeroboam stood finger pointersby the altar to burn incense. And he cried against the altar in the word of the Lord, and said, O altar, altar, thus saith the Lord; Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men’s bones shall be burnt upon thee. And he gave a sign the same day, saying, This is the sign which the Lord hath spoken; Behold, the altar shall be rent, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out. And it came to pass, when king Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God, which had cried against the altar in Bethel, that he put forth his hand from the altar, saying, Lay hold on him. And his hand, which he put forth against him, dried up, so that he could not pull it in again to him.

1 Kings 13:1-4 KJV

So, I’m just wondering…

Remember how our moms always told us when we scowled and howled to be careful because our face might freeze that way?

What if that happened to our pointing fingers?

Reading 1 Kings 13 during my morning grazing through verdant and green biblical Hebrew fields…

Bold prophetic outburst.

Rebel pronouncement. Prophetic provocateur.

Monarchic outrage. Bloody Bighead bellowing: “Off with his head!”Bloody Big Head

Pious king in solemn worship before his altar turns. Face aflame and hotter than sacrificial embers, arm and hand shoot out with finger ready to launch as a lethal dagger. The king’s one word shout in Hebrew, “Teeph-sue-who!” “Seize him!”

And then his hand freezes.

The King James Version has it quite literally right. His hand “dried up.” Frozen. No movement. Imagine a Pirates of the Caribbean shriveling of flesh and bone, if you wish. But that hand and arm were stuck in their accusatory pose. Mannequin hand, with finger extended. Frozen. Rigid. Just like his heart.

After his arm was restored, I wonder, was he a little slower to point that finger the next time? Or was he, like we, right back to his royal and religious finger pointing antics as soon as the memory faded?

So just what might happen if, for one moment, just once…

every pointing finger froze
every wagging tongue congealed
every sneering lip shriveled
every rolling eye turned to stone.

How odd we all would look…

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2013 in Mercy, musings, Religion

 

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nice wins

It’s a popular thing to say in some religious circles:nice_5

“Nice” is not a fruit of the Spirit.
“Niceness” is not a Christian virtue.
Anyone can be nice.
Nice people “nice” other people straight to hell.
God is not nice. God is tough. He is harsh. He’s a consuming fire of meanness! (for maximum effect use Monster Truck voice here).
Ranting is next to godliness, not niceness.

This is then followed by copious references to John the Baptist screaming “brood of vipers” (note, at religious people) or Jesus yelling, “Hypocrites!” (once again, at religious folks).

Someone forwarded me a blog post by a pastor with the latest example of slamming “niceness,” shredding in the process a few prominent opponents he regards as too “nice.” He has a point. But he got me thinking (which may or may not have been his point) and realizing, that, well, God is nice (at least he can be). Niceness is even a fruit of the Spirit. We just don’t usually translate the pertinent family of Greek words with our “nice” one, even though that would be, well, a nice translation.

Consider the definition of our word “nice.”nice definition

“Showing or requiring great precision or sensitive discernment. Subtle.”

So that’s what we mean when we say “nice sermon” or “nice post.”

“Respectable. Virtuous. Friendly. Attractive.” An “intense, extreme” to the nth degree, even.

Antonyms: “vague, insensitive, blunt, indecent, unfriendly, unattractive, unbecoming, inappropriate.”

Now, I look at those antonyms, and yes, I can see all of those fitting the Bible at one point or another and the nice (1)portrait of God captured there at one point or another, particularly the further back we go. Actually, we don’t have to go any further back than the Old Testament prophets.

Isaiah walking around naked for three years? So not nice. Point taken.

But now consider the definition of the word translated “kindness” in Paul’s famous “fruit of the Spirit” listing (Galatians 5:22-23). χρηστότης (cray-stow-tace) from the root word χρηστός (cray-stows) – just one letter off from “Christ” in Greek. Definition?

“Fit, fit for use, useful; virtuous, good; manageable; mild, pleasant (as opposed to harsh, hard, sharp, bitter); of things: more pleasant; of people: kind, benevolent.”

Gosh, that sounds nice.

Now for a quick tour of biblical niceness

nice_3“Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for my yoke is χρηστός (easy, kind, nice) and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

“Love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is χρηστός (easy, kind, nice) unto the unthankful and to the evil.” (Yes, I’m just in a KJV mood today, what can I say! Luke 6:35)

“Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the χρηστός (easy, kind, niceness) of God leadeth thee to repentance?” (Romans 2:4)

All together now: God is nice. And his niceness is the definitive divine draw into the ultimate paradigm shift that is “repentance.”

And another: “And be ye χρηστός (easy, kind, nice) to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

Yes, we are commanded to be nice. χρηστότης (cray-stow-tace) niceness is the fifth of the nine listed fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 – which puts nice right. in. the. middle.

Nice.nice_4

Is nice the whole picture? No. I know this may be a bit more Bible than some of you are used to, but bear with me, just one more: “Behold therefore the χρηστότης (niceness) and severity of God; on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, χρηστότης (niceness), if thou continue in [his] χρηστότης (niceness).” (Romans 11:22)

Niceness and abruptness in alternating rhythms – with the charge for us to continue in the rhythm of niceness.  And for the most part we are told to leave abrupt and blunt severity to God, probably because if it were left up to us we’d end up nuking everyone.

Think about that.

play nice

So play nice

Why are we so eager to embrace anger and ranting as Jesus values and dismiss “nice” as a work of the devil? We talk about people leading others smilingly to hell – but isn’t it just as absurd to imagine leading others sneeringly and snarkily to heaven? And does anyone really want that heaven? Aren’t we inundated with enough of that here?

Perhaps this is a simple way to determine which rhythm is the best choice: which do we want back? – not just from each other, but when it matters most: as we stand naked before the Source of all Reality (which is, if we could only see it, where we all are right now)?

“Judgment will be without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy; but mercy triumphs over judgment.”

Nice wins.

nice

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2013 in Mercy, musings

 

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palimpsest eyes

I just had to go back and visit the bishop in Les Miserables. Kind of the same reason I need to read another Brennan Manning book every once in a while.

I need to remember.

To remember who I am. To know the eyesight I must cultivate. The heart habits I must nuture. I am always too easily otherwise. Far too easily. Bishop, you are Welcome. Make your abode here.

We are not obliged to sound the Bishop of Digne on the score of orthodoxy. In the presence of such a soul we bienvenufeel ourselves in no mood but respect. The conscience of the man should be accepted on his word. Moreover, certain natures being given, we admit the possible development of all beauties of human virtue in a belief that differs from our own.

What did he think of this dogma, or of that mystery? These secrets of the inner tribunal of the conscience are known only to the tomb, where souls enter naked. The point on which we are certain is, that the difficulties of faith never resolved themselves into hypocrisy in his case. No decay is possible in the diamond. He believed to the extent of his powers. Moreover, he drew from good works that amount of satisfaction which suffices to the conscience, and which whispers to a man, “Thou art with God!”

The point which we consider it our duty to note is, that outside of and beyond his faith, as it were, the Bishop possessed an excess of love. What was this excess of love? It was a serene benevolence which overflowed men, as we have already pointed out, and which, on occasion, extended even to things. He lived without disdain. He was indulgent towards God’s creation. Every man, even the best, has within him a thoughtless harshness which he reserves for animals. The Bishop of Digne had none of that harshness, which is peculiar to many priests, nevertheless. He did not go as far as the Brahmin, but he seemed to have weighed this saying of Ecclesiastes: “Whoso knoweth wither the soul of the animal goeth?” Hideousness of aspect, deformity of instinct, troubled him not, and did not arouse his indignation. He was touched, almost softened by them. It seemed as though he went thoughtfully away to seek beyond the bounds of life which is apparent, the cause, the explanation, or the excuse for them. He seemed at times to be asking God to commute these penalties. He examined without wrath, and with the eye of a linguist who is deciphering a palimpsest, that portion of chaos which still exists in nature. This revery sometimes caused him to utter odd sayings. One morning he was in his garden, and thought himself alone, but his sister was walking behind him, unseen by him: suddenly he paused and gazed at something on the ground; it was a large, black, hairy, frightful spider. His sister heard him say:

“Poor beast! It is not its fault!”

His universal suavity was less an instinct of nature than the result of a grand conviction which had filtered into his heart through the medium of life, and had trickled there slowly, thought by thought; for, in a character, as in a rock, there may exist apertures made by drops of water. These hollows are uneffaceable; these formations are indestructible.

Palimpsest“With the eye of a linguist who is deciphering a palimpsest” Love this line! A palimpsest is a manuscript that has been rubbed and scraped clean so as to be reused. Linguists will strive to decipher the older text underlying the more recent. Thus to see with the eye of a linguist deciphering a palimpsest is not merely to read between the lines, but to search for the nearly invisible text lying beneath the obvious.

Yes. May I see with such eyes!

May I suffer from such an excess of love that sees beyond the hairy beast before me to the deep-sixed subtext.

May the difficulties of faith never be resolved into hypocrisy in me.

Drip by drip, Life, drop your waters on me. Create uneffaceable hollows of grace in me, indestrucible formations of mercies fresh and waiting.

Bishop, you are Welcome.

Make your abode here.

Amen.

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2013 in Mercy, musings

 

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anchored but wondrously adrift

AvramTalking about Avram (Hebrew pronunciation of Abram aka Abraham; I like saying “Avram” just because it makes him feel less familiar, more foreign, which was actually crucial to the point) this past Sunday, much emerged as I talked.

I knew I was going to start reading in Genesis 11 up through Genesis 12:5 or so; I knew I was going to summarize highlights of Avram’s journey and life on the way to the pivotal statement of Genesis 15:6 “And he believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” I just didn’t know where the read would lead or what I would see along the way. Which I suppose is appropriate in any musing about Avram who “went out not knowing where he was going.”

Anyone who really lives will feel immediate kinship with Avram. To really live is of necessity to “go out not knowing where you are going.”

There is so much uncertainty to embrace. So much disorientation, so much dissonance, so much disconnection, so much discombobulation, so much doubt that is crucial in this whole business of life and faith.

And we thought faith was all about certainties.adrift_2

And it is. In a very uncertain sort of way.

Avram left a trail of altars in the wake of uncertain steps.

Concrete markers (literally!) of God encounters as he went he knew not where.

Avram moved respectfully within a very religious culture without feeling he had to buy into any of it as he no doubt formerly had before he set out on his disorienting journey of faith. He lived within his own developing “parachurch” clan, but yet, with eyes open for God in the wide world, he found him in unexpected places and faces.

Anchored and yet wondrously adrift.

And so he was ready to meet a strange “priest of the Most High God” named Melchizedek that we still puzzle over. Coming from our entrenched certitudes we no doubt would have viewed suspiciously such a Middle Eastern king and priest. We would have plied him with questions about his beliefs and practices, no doubt, measuring, quantifying orthodoxy, inquiring into the nature of his faith franchise. Avram simply saw the Most High God reflected in that visage – even as he clearly saw it not in the face of Sodom’s king. And so he sat down with him and shared bread and wine. And then gave him a tenth of all he had just won in a hard fight to liberate his captive nephew Lot.

So he also looked out from his tent in the heat of the day, seeing the shape of three travelers  and in the ultimate version of “guess Who’s coming to dinner” inviting them to stop and share the shade of a tree with him and some food. And he saw in them the face of the Divine.

Anchored, but wondrously adrift.

Read this comment from Rohr this morning that connected with these ongoing musings of Avram in me compelling me to take them to this keyboard (I was certain I had other things to do!). So with them I will conclude:

The Jewish prophets had one foot in Israel and one foot outside and beyond. So must you have one foot in your historical faith community and one foot in the larger world; one foot rooted in a good tradition of accountability and another in your own world of service, volunteerism, occupation, a subgroup, or what I call “lifestyle Christianity” and some call “Emerging Church,” which desires to move beyond mere belief and worship systems to actual lifestyle choices and new accountability systems for giving your life away. How else can we imitate the surrender of Jesus, who did exactly the same in relation to his own Jewish religion? He never left it, and yet in some ways he always left it when it did not heal or help real people. He formed his own little “parachurch” within and yet alongside the Jewish priestly system, which became, rightly or wrongly, its own separate religion which we now call Christianity.

Oh to ever be so anchored but wondrously adrift. Oh to know how to be anchored without the anchor becoming a millstone…and to be wondrously adrift without becoming a castaway.

Avram is in there. Somewhere. And so am I.

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2013 in Faith, Mercy, musings

 

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